The polling sites have been finalized in the election being held Saturday by a group contesting the results of the last election of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians. Voting will be held in the Havre- Hill County Public Library from 9 a.m. to noon with other sites set around the state and in Spokane. Absentee and online ballots also have been allowed in the election. The Little Shell Chippewa Alliance, a group of Tribal members who contend the Tribal council was not elected legally, set the election after a constitutional referendum it sponsored passed in January. The results of the referendum have been dismissed as invalid by the chair of the council elected in 2009, John Sinclair. Sinclair said he plans to create a tribunal to assess the actions of the people in holding the referendum and the election. The Alliance contends that Sinclair illegally postponed the election that was set for November 2008, and that made the March 2009 election invalid. The group says that irregularities in the conducting of the 2008 election also makes it invalid. Sinclair said the election was valid. The original election was postponed to allow for hearings to be held for people who were excluded for the election, and it was rescheduled to the March date, he said. He said the elections scheduled Saturday will not have any legal standing, adding that the people dissatisfied with the Tribal government should work within the established government and procedures to settle their differences. Contention has been high in the Tribe, in the midst of other issues such as the U.S. Department of Interior denying the Little Shell federal recognition as an Indian Tribe. That decision last fall was after a 31-year wait following the Tribe’s last attempt at federal recognition, a request filed In 1978. Montana officially recognized the Tribe, which has been seeking federal recognition since it was excluded from an 1863 treaty, at the start of the decade. Most of the 4,300 members of the Tribe are spread throughout Montana. Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., has introduced a bill in the House which would provide recognition for the Little Shell. Montana’s Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester, both Democrats, have introduced similar legislation in the Senate. The state also has put a freeze on money that had been allocated to the Tribe after an audit found problems in its accounting, another problem the council’s opponents cite as a reason for their opposition. The state Department of Commerce recommended that Gov. Brian Schweitzer move the $417,000 allocated to the Tribe to the state’s general fund as part of the effort to stave off budget shortfalls. Two of the members of the council elected last March have resigned in protest over Sinclair’s leadership. John LaSalle of Box Elder and Leona Kienenberger of Dodson resigned in February. Kienenberger is a candidate in the elections set for Saturday, although LaSalle did not run. The other polling places in the election are in Great Falls at the public library from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Helena at the public library from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Butte at the public library from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Missoula at the Missoula Indian Center from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Malta at Stretch’s Pizza from noon to 5 p.m.; and Spokane at the Spokane Indian Center from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call the Little Shell Chippewa Election Committee at (406) 788-0994.
Little Shell announce election sites
Published: Friday, March 5th, 2010
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